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The Voice of the Black Community

Health

Allergies and you
Know the signs and take action
 
Published Friday, March 30, 2012 8:08 am
by Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity

Many of us look forward to the start of spring and the warmer weather it brings, but unfortunately with that weather comes a very unwelcome condition, Allergies. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of American estimates that 50 million people suffer from allergies. 


Allergy is the fifth leading chronic disease in the U.S. among all ages, and the third most common chronic disease among children under 18 years old. What can you do to prevent and treat the most common allergies? Read on to learn more.

 

What are allergies?

 

According to the National Institutes of Health, an allergy is a reaction of your immune system to something that does not bother most other people. People who have allergies often are sensitive to more than one thing. Those things that cause an allergy are called allergens. It is important to know the difference between allergies and a cold. Cold symptoms will gradually lessen in severity and usually go away within 7-14 days. Allergy symptoms often show up in certain seasons and do not go away for several weeks, sometimes months. Common symptoms are:

 

Stuffy nose

 

Watery eyes, often irritated or red

 

Swelling in the nose and/or throat

 

Sneezing

 

Sensation of pressure in the nose and the head

 

Stuffy ears

 

Itching and/or rashes on the skin

 

What are the most common allergens?

 

Tree pollen, flower pollen, grass and weeds are the most common environmental allergens.

 

Mold - common in the places where the water accumulates, like shower curtains, window panes, basements/cellars as in the curtains of bath, the marks of the windows and the humid cellars.

 

Animal dander skin and hair from animals such as cats and dogs are also common allergens, and are most common when petting an animal or in a house where these animals live.

 

Dust Often, allergies to dust are due to the things that can be present in the dust, like carcasses from bugs and/or dust mites.

 

The following can make allergy symptoms worse: contamination in the air, extreme temperature changes, high humidity, tobacco smoke and stress.

 

How I can avoid allergens?

 

Pollen: Take a bath or shower upon entering your house and especially before lying down on a couch or bed to remove pollen and other allergens from your hair and skin. Keep your windows and doors closed (if possible) and use air conditioning in your house and car.

 

Mold: You can frequently reduce the amount of mold in your house by removing plants and cleaning shower curtains, windows where moisture collects (like bathrooms and kitchens), walls, any areas with rotten wood and trash cans. Use a mixture of water and lye to kill the mold. Open doors and windows and use fans to help move the air and prevent mold formation. You can control the quality of the air in your house by using a dehumidifier and cleaning or replacing your air conditioning filters regularly.

 

Animal dander: If the allergy is serious, you may need to remove the animal(s) from the home or at least keep them outside in the house in a safe backyard or other area such as a pet run.  Animal dander accumulates over time and especially in dust, and may take a month or more to completely disappear once the animal is removed and the house cleaned. If you do keep the animal(s) in your home, wash clothes and bedding frequently, bathe the animal often, and use and air cleaner to diminish the animal dander. You can also ask your veterinarian about how to reduce the amount of dander in your home. You can also ask your veterinarian about certain breeds of dogs and cats that do not shed and are good for people with allergies.

 

Dust: In order to reduce the amount of dust in your home, washing curtains, pillows, blankets and dusting furniture regularly are essential. You should also wash toys as often as possible. It can also help to cover mattresses and pillows with protective plastic covers.

 

What medicines I can take to help to alleviate my symptoms?

Antihistamines help diminish sneezing, mucus, and swelling caused by allergies, and they are more helpful if you take them before you are exposed to the allergens. Antihistamines can cause drowsiness and dryness in the mouth, and some of these require a prescription. Decongestants, which can help with nasal congestion, can be bought without medical prescription. However, decongestants can raise your blood pressure, so it is a good idea to speak to your doctor before using them, especially if you suffer from high blood pressure.

 

Nasal steroids reduce the reaction your airways and nasal passages to the inhaled allergens; most of these are prescription. They alleviate the swelling in your nose and can help you feel less pressure and congestion. Eye drops can also be helpful for red, watery and irritated eyes; most of these can be purchased without a prescription.

 

Your doctor can test you with tiny amounts of allergens, on the skin, to see to which allergens you react. Once your doctor knows what you are allergic to, you and your doctor can decide the best course of treatment.

 

Do you need further information or have questions or comments about this article? Please call toll-free 1-877-530-1824. Or, for more information about the Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity, visit: http://www.wfubmc.edu/MACHE.

 

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